Ambulances & Vehicle Ops, News

Rule Change in California May Change Ambulance Business

A decades-old rule that kept all but one ambulance company from doing business in Riverside may be changed to what officials say is a fairer system.

With five companies now allowed to run non-emergency ambulance calls in the city, the impact of the proposed change may be less than dramatic.

Emergency ambulance service in Riverside County is provided by American Medical Response through a near-exclusive contract with the county. In the city, non-emergency calls – such as trips between hospitals and care facilities – also were provided only by AMR until December, when a second company was approved.

For years, Riverside’s franchise system and its requirement to prove a need for more ambulances kept other companies out. The council overhauled the requirements and allowed four more companies – Care Ambulance, Mission Ambulance, Cavalry Ambulance and AmeriCare Ambulance – to begin operating in the city in the past few months.

Now Fire Chief Michael Moore and the council’s public safety committee are recommending that the demand to show “need and necessity” be dropped and that anyone who meets the city’s requirements be given a permit to do business. The council will consider the changes Tuesday.

Councilman Mike Soubirous said the old rule was “way too restrictive and designed to keep people out.” The city had been criticized for creating a de facto monopoly on ambulance service.

Moore said the need and necessity rule “was never really defined,” which made it a nearly impossible standard to meet.

No one need fear the quality of ambulance service will suffer from the proposed rule changes because the city requires companies to be certified by the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services, Moore said. That process can take 18 months and is considered the “gold standard” in the industry, he said.

Cavalry Ambulance General Manager Lane Tucker said business has run smoothly since the company began operating in Riverside on Feb. 14. Kaiser Permanente s Riverside hospital has had a positive experience since more companies have come into the city, spokeswoman Karen Roberts wrote in an email.

Moore said he doesn’t expect many more ambulance companies to request permits in Riverside, since nearly all of those in Southern California that have the required accreditation are now operating in the city.

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